Wednesday, September 21, 2005

EdWatch celebrates wins

It was billed as a lecture by Constitutional law professor John Eidsmoe, but it was also a reunion of EdWatch education reform troops, conservative legislators, financial supporters, and friends.

The Eidsmoe event was held at the super-sized Grace Church and conference center, and Divine Grind coffee shop, and surely-there's-a-bookstore-in-there-somewhere, in Eden Prairie. EdWatch received around 130 pre-registrations, but after the extra chairs were brought in for the walk-ins, there must have been close to 200 packed in the meeting room to hear Dr. Eidsmoe. I spotted many EdWatch members who where the feet at the Capitol in the years-long campaign to replace the fuzzy Profile of Learning with new Academic Standards (including the mom who went toe-to-toe with Paul Spies, ah those were the days).

Pediatrician Karen Effrem is an EdWatch speaker and seemingly tireless lobbyist for education reform, and against overzealous early childhood education and coerced mental health screening and medication of school children. She recognized several Congressmen who supported EdWatch goals in Washington: Republicans Rep. Mark Kennedy, Rep. John Kline, and Rep. Gil Gutknecht. She also thanked Minnesota Rep. Jim Knobloch (R-St. Cloud) for supporting EdWatch on medical and mental health issues; Rep. Mark Olson (R-Big Lake) for opposing the Profile of Learning and championing the American Heritage Education Act over several legislative sessions; and Sen. Michele Bachmann (R-Stillwater), to a standing ovation from the audience, for her many years as a passionate, articulate voice (as a constituent and a legislator) for the EdWatch agenda. Appearances by Cheri Pierson Yecke, the godmother of Pawlenty administration education reforms, and commentator Katherine Kersten, early Profile of Learning opponent, would have made the evening complete.

When Dr. Eidsmoe became available to speak at the EdWatch event, there was some debate about the format: venue, admission, what kind of food to serve (dinner? dessert? lunch?), etc. The eventual combo was a winner: a sparkling new conference center with plenty of capacity, coffee and dessert (the apple tart-y thing was pretty darn good), tickets for $15. EdWatch's presentation of legislative wins, meaty policy briefs from Michael "PowerPoint Master" Chapman and Allen Quist, the superb main speaker Eidsmoe, talking shop with EdWatch board members, the chance to rub elbows with conservative stars like Bachmann and Olson and bow-tied emcee David Thompson (AM 1500 KSTP radio and frequent guest on "At Issue," KSTP-TV), and a co-sponsorship and on-air promotion from AM 1280 The Patriot and AM 980 KKMS radio, all converged for a stimulating evening, and hopefully some financial support from those in attendance.

With a full-time lobbyist in Washington, D.C., a continued presence in Saint Paul, and an increasing presence in other states, EdWatch is soldiering on for knowledge-based education reforms, parental rights, and liberty.

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